The power of the human mind is always reaching for new heights and the field of Extended Reality is no exception. So we are thrilled to see XR evolving as a force to benefit our mutual health and well being. If you heard our news about working with the Surrey Health & Technology District to create the XR Lab demo studio, our enthusiasm comes as no surprise.
Last year we outlined the diagnostic, surgical, and rehabilitation applications of VR/AR/MR for Health Care. And we’ve talked about VR’s potential as a tool for mental wellness and physical fitness. We’re now looking a few specific use cases we think are remarkably exciting.
Surgical Training Simulators
Now that we can apply the detail-rich graphics of video games to the field of VR for medical professionals, surgical training simulations have reached an unprecedented level of authenticity.
Vancouver-based Precision OS Technology developed the self-titled PrecisionOS™ platform with anatomic accuracy and tactile feedback. Leading professionals from both gaming and medicine came together to create a product so advanced it allows surgeons to prepare for a specific patient’s procedure by uploading unique individual anatomy. This is not just an overview for a type of surgery, but the chance to customize a trial run for a particular individual.
Operating room nurses can benefit from virtual training as well, with advanced visual quality and attention to detail. Conquer Experience’s PeriopSim VR offers nurses the opportunity to prepare for unfamiliar surgeries before setting foot in an operating room. Participants learn instruments and procedures step by step in an environment more realistic than classroom lectures and books can achieve.
The New Jersey-based Kessler Foundation and the Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute in California caught our attention with their work on using VR to facilitate stroke recovery.
Brain plasticity and spatial neglect are terms we don’t hear often, but they are particularly important in the context of recovery from a stroke. The damage done to the brain during a stroke can be catastrophic and irreversible. Now thanks to the innovators above, VR may be giving new hope to stroke victims and their families as a tool for remapping the brain, teaching it to relearn motor functions using undamaged tissue.
Full immersion in increasingly more realistic visual environments may have the potential to ‘trick’ the brain and kickstart physical recoveries previous thought to be impossible.
Spinal Injury Rehab
Another extremely important area of physical rehabilitation is recovery from spinal injuries. VR experiences are making progress here too, particularly when used in conjunction with other technologies like electrical muscle stimulation. In the video below, a patient uses the HTC Vive to simulate the experience of climbing Mount Everest. He has already recovered more movement than his doctors had thought possible.
Providing additional sensory input to the brain may also help patients with little to no eyesight. The haptic jacket we discussed last week as being developed by Disney Research has been speculated to offer therapeutic benefits in the form of spatial information. We look forward to any additional updates on this exciting idea.
We are confident these concepts are just the tip of the innovation iceberg. As new developments and achievements arise, VR will be taking a pivotal role in even broader health care areas.
Photo Credit: daniilvolkov / Adobe Stock